Learning German in Austria
I have been on a quest to learn German since moving to Austria. When I initially moved here, I had this idea that by living in a German speaking country, I would gradually pick up the language through immersion. What I did not account for was how regional German can be. I had no idea that there were so many dialects and accents throughout German-speaking countries. Carinthian, which is the dialect spoken where I live, can even be difficult for native German speakers to understand. So here I am, one year into living in Austria, determined as ever to understand the language.
I am currently enrolled in German classes with AKVHS, the Carinthian Volkshochschulen, in Villach. My German classes take place two evenings a week for two hours each. My class is taught in German, which may be frustrating at times, but long-term has really helped me learn the language.
Tips for Learning German in Austria
- Standard German vs. Austrian German: Most German courses teach Hochdeutsch which is considered to be standard German. In my course, the instructor will explain terms that are different in Austrian German to help the class. This can be frustrating at times since there really is no rhyme or reason as to why there are differences, it just is the way it is.
- Living with Dialect: If you live in a region with a strong local dialect, it may take awhile to adjust to daily conversation. When I first moved to Villach, I purchased some fruit at the market and the farmer told me the cost. I was perplexed because the number he was saying was not a number I was familiar with. It turns out that the number 2 in Carinthian is pronounced “zw-ah” instead of the Hochdeutsch pronunciation of “zwei.” Sometimes it can feel a little like learning two languages – ha!
- Immersion and Courses: I have come to understand that you need both language immersion and language courses to learn a language. Even though I have four hours of German class a week, I still try to have an additional two hours per week of German immersion. I made myself a playlist on Spotify of German songs. I attempt to read newspapers and magazines in German. My partner and I even try to text in German. Flex your foreign language muscle and use the skills you are learning!
Learning German has been one of the most difficult parts of becoming an expat in Austria. Even though I have lived here a year and I am still considered a beginner, I have not lost hope. If you are learning another language, power to you! I admire you greatly.